Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Another Year, Another Shot at Title for Miami's Big 3 ; James Leads the Charge as Heat Oust Celtics, Who May Break Up Their Core

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Another Year, Another Shot at Title for Miami's Big 3 ; James Leads the Charge as Heat Oust Celtics, Who May Break Up Their Core

Article excerpt

LeBron James played all 48 minutes as the Heat beat the Boston Celtics, 101-88, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.

The rally was brash and ostentatious. Three towering figures rose above the fray, declaring their supremacy in bold, broad strokes. The Miami Heat were flexing and preening again, but with an authority and substance that no one, not even the Boston Celtics, could deny.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh -- who united in one infamous, smoke-filled rally 23 months ago when they joined the same squad, making lofty promises that would define their character and their careers -- staged a furious rally on the court late Saturday night, steering a 101-88 Game 7 victory at home over the Celtics to clinch the Eastern Conference title and send the Heat back to the National Basketball Association finals.

The Heat will play the Oklahoma City Thunder for the championship, in what promises to be an electric showdown between two of the league's premier scorers, James and Kevin Durant. The series starts Tuesday in Oklahoma.

A year ago, the Heat's title hopes were snuffed in the finals by the Dallas Mavericks, inviting mockery and scathing criticism, primarily of James. Every step they have taken since then has been directed at this moment.

"It's been a journey," said James, who led the Heat with 31 points and 12 rebounds. "It's been a long ride."

Wade spoke of redemption, a payoff that is now four victories away. The opportunity was nearly lost when Miami let a 2-0 advantage in this series become a 3-2 deficit. But James refused to let it go, closing out the series with 76 points and 27 rebounds over the final two games -- a screaming rebuttal to anyone who still questioned his ability to perform under duress.

James was steady, efficient, smart and ultimately overpowering.

"He's the best basketball player in the world," Bosh said. "He just has to show up and do what he's been working on and believe in himself, because we believe in him. If he does that, we all like where we stand when the smoke clears. …

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